I’ve always been a big fan of the Halo franchise. It was the first shooter I owned and in many ways, it’s the game I subconsciously compare others to when gauging my enjoyment. So back in 2009 when they released the first iteration of their strategy game, Halo Wars, I was excited to see my favourite franchise take a leap into a new genre. The game itself was an enjoyable experience but fairly mediocre overall. Within a year of its release, Halo Wars was mostly forgotten and relegated as a footnote in Bungie’s history.
Following this, last year many of us were surprised to hear that the Xbox One’s flagship ‘exclusive’ for 2017 was Halo Wars 2, a sequel no one asked for nor expected. Many of us, perhaps fairly, assumed this was a stop gate measure to tide us over for the next iteration of the main first person shooter IP. Halo Wars 2 has pleasantly surprised me on this count. The issue with console RTS’s is a simple one; video game controllers are not built around intricate operation management but rather fast-paced twitch action. Thus, any RTS produced for the console need to allow for quick and accurate unit management without oversimplifying the game. You can select units in three different ways, those inside the radius of a small circle, or all those on screen or all units currently on the map. Halo Wars 2 manages guiding united through Byzantine maneuvers by locking the speed of a selected group to the slowest member of said group, allowing your formation to keep its formation. These options, while perhaps restrictive to PC players, blend perfectly with the console’s controller scheme.
The campaign is an impressive part of the game. For the retail price, you get twelve solid campaign missions, interspersed with a compelling narrative. It is clear that both the story line and the game play were developed synonymously as neither is sacrificed at the behest of the other.
However, the problem of the attention span of the console gamer is solved rather neatly with their new card based mode called ‘Blitz’. In this game type, the action is to the point and brutal. It revolves around summoning units to the field using cards in a pre-built deck. Your average Xbox One or PS4 player is used to packaged five to ten minute matches. Repetition and quick turn over are the order of the day which leaves strategy games at a loss. This game mode should placate the die hard console gamers.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the game’s one major drawback. Although I reviewed this game on the Xbox One, I did take the time to play a demo on the PC. Unfortunately, it’s clear this was made with the console in mind and then ported to the secondary platform. While a mouse and keyboard allow for greater fine control, it is still annoying to be shackled to the limitations of a console. The layout is also badly ported. Options are hidden on unlabelled tabs in sections with no coherent order, but hopefully this is something which can easily be patched. All in all, I found the game to be enjoyable with more than enough content to justify the price tag. Although if you have the option, it certainly performs better on one platform than the other.